Sikorsky Rolls Out Latest Helicopter
STRATFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Under a banner proclaiming ″The Shape of Wings To Come,″ Sikorsky Aircraft on Tuesday unveiled its revolutionary X-Wing research helicopter designed to overcome speed limitations on conventional helicopters.
The X-Wing, rolled out in Sikorsky’s giant hangar to an audience of 1,300 executives, politicians, dignitaries and employees, is the aerospace industry’s latest shot at overcoming one of manned flight’s major barriers: speeds above 600 miles per hour in aircraft that can take off, hover and land like helicopters.
The $100 million project began after Sikorsky won a contract from the government in 1982 to develop the experimental aircraft. The white X-Wing, with its blue stripe and red trim, will be shipped to Edwards Air Force Base in California in September to prepare for its first test flight.
The X-Wing was developed jointly by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and United Technologies Corp.’s Sikorsky unit.
Only a few helicopters can exceed 200 mph under optimum conditions and can’t fly faster because of a force called ″retreating blade stall.″ When that occurs one blade loses lift, or stalls, and only one lifts, making the helicopter unstable.
Theoretically with the X-Wing, the four-bladed rotor will be stopped in mid-flight to function as a fixed, X-shaped wing. Then, test pilots will shift to jet engine power, accelerate and then fly using the stationary rotor blades for lift.
The purpose of the X-wing program is to demonstrate the technology involved in starting and stopping the rotor in flight, as well as to map out the forces of the rotor wing over a large range of air speeds.
Sikorsky officials said the X-Wing won’t replace the conventional fixed wing or rotary wing aircraft. But the X-Wing will be able to perform missions which call for the low-speed efficiency and maneuverability of helicopters, plus the high cruise speed of fixed wing aircraft.
Potential missions include air-to-air and air-to-ground tactical operations, electronic intelligence, anti-submarine warfare and search and rescue.
Ray Leoni, senior vice president at Sikorsky, called the aircraft ″a natural marriage between the helicopter and fixed wing aircraft.″
He said the X-Wing will have ″fixed-wing cruise efficiency, copter-like hover efficiency and copter-like hover control power.″
″This has no equivalent in the rest of the world,″ Robert Zincone, president of Sikorsky Aircraft, said during the elaborate roll-out ceremony.
UTC President Robert Daniell called the X-Wing ″a triumph ... a piece of art, a piece of technological genius.″
Dr. Raymond Colladay, associate administrator with NASA, said, ″We have recognized yet another milestone in aviation.″